Monday, June 07, 2010

A quick question about the female super hero

I'm working on a post for a blog I've been asked to contribute to over at Elder Signs Press that has to do with female super heroes and I could use a little help. I don't want to tell you what my post is about because I'm sure the comments will have the potential to bias the direction I'm taking on this piece. So you'll just have to wait (hint-- that means I hope you'll read the post when I let you know it's up) and see where I take the information I'm hoping you'll provide here. Who do you think of when I say "female super hero?" Do you think of Wonder Woman or Xena? Are you all about Buffy the Vampire Slayer or someone less well known like Emma Frost? And what characteristics come to mind when you think of your favorite heroine? Do you think about her powers? Her costume? Or perhaps her other, more exaggerated attributes? No need to get into a super-detailed answer. I'm just trying to get an idea of who and what you think of when you hear "female" and "super hero" in the same sentence. Any input would be appreciated.

27 comments:

Kendall said...

When I read the title of your post, I first thought of Wonder Woman. Just the phrase "super hero" makes me think of comic book supers; Buffy isn't a superhero IMHO (despite sharing most of the attributes...except she didn't originate in a comic...though she's in one now ;-).

I'm not sure who my fave superheroine is, but Wonder Woman's probably up there. I don't know what comes to mind (having read your post, it's impossible to be honest about what comes to mind first, at least), but I'm pretty sure her ability to kick ass is one of the things. ;-)

NoirKat said...

How about Rose Tyler, from Doctor Who. Just ordinary, but with the courage and intellect to get things done.

BStearns said...

I automatically think Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Then I think Angel, then I think "Damn...Joss Whedon's awesome." I think that's the train of thought normal people take as well, right? Right?

-Bryan
sff-hub.blogspot.com

Charles Gramlich said...

I definitely think of characters like Wonder Woman, Storm, Supergirl, Batgirl, and the like. I definitely don't put Buffy and Xena in the same category. I recognize that female superheroes are attractive, but I think most of the males are supposed to be too aren't they?

Harry Markov said...

When you say super hero, I hop on the super hero caped women bandwagon. I recognize Jean Grey, Emma Forst [although she is the gutsy anti-hero], Psylocke and many women, who wear flashy costumes.

They are idolized and usually are sexually charged, but that is because men write them after all. I'd suggest Birds of Prey under Simone to see what can be done with female heroes under a female writer.

Colleen said...

I go for the capes first as well - it's just what super hero means to me. I think of Wonder Woman, Power Girl, Storm and Bat Girl (Barbara Gordon)in particular.

As much as I love Buffy I never thought of her as a super hero which is strange when you think about. Now if you asked for "Kick Ass Heroines" then Buffy would have been on the list along with Xena, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton version) etc. But so would Wonder Woman and crew.

I don't know what that says about me but it's how I think. (And yes, Liberty Belle would be in there for sure.)

Jamie Gibbs said...

I'll have to agree that to me a super heroine would be the likes of storm, pheonix, rogue, susan storm etc. To me, gender rarely comes into place with the superhero genre. I look at the superpower first and foremost, and the gender of the hero/heroine takes a lower place.

Sullivan McPig said...

The first female super hero that comes to mind is 'Bowler' from Mystery Men. My all time favourite female super hero!

Anonymous said...

SUPERGIRL!

Project Savior said...

When I think of a female super hero I think of a woman that has the power to do high impact aerobics dressed on a 100 degree day dressed in a leather outfit. A woman who can do kick ass martial arts in high heals. And somehow can get around the city despite the fact that she has no pockets to put her car keys in.

logankstewart said...

I agree with Kendall. Superhero brings to mind comic books, and then I go to thinking about Wonder Woman or Susan Storm or, Lord help, Jubilee.

After finding Buffy a few seasons ago, I try to think this way. I prefer the "normal" person with super abilities/talents like Batman and River Tam and Buffy.

But thinking of women super-villains is much easier to me. Poison Ivy is awesome, as is Mystique, Catwoman, and even Maleficient.

Jim Haley said...

Like most others, I do -not- think of Buffy and the like - only female superheroes of the comic book/capes and tights variety. Similarly, I wouldn't think of Hercules (of the TV show) or Angel as superheroes. First thoughts went to Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Storm and Invisible Woman. The most successful female superheroes to me seem to be as part of a team setting (Storm/X-Men, Invisible Woman/Fantastic Four - even Wonder Woman seems more appealing as part of JLA than on her own). I've always been fine with the exagerated features of female superheroes (because let's face it, even "Slim" Scott Summers wound up "buff" just like most every other male superhero) - it's more when we move out of the superhero genre that I like to see the female form in a more natural state (for instance, Star Wars comics mostly seem to keep their women looking more 'normal').

Savant said...

Hermione Granger (from Harry Potter) was my first thought, fwiw. Buffy, Rose (from Dr. Who), and Black Widow also come to mind.

S.M.D. said...

Honestly, I think of any extraordinary female character who may or may not have special abilities. So anything from Xena/Buffy/Hermoine to Starbuck.

But, I'm weird.

Budd said...

I think of grace, honor, maternity. . . wait that is a lie. I think of skimpy tight outfits on the likes of WW and supergirl. Those are realy the only two names that immediatly pop into my head. Sure powergirl, rogue, vampirella, and other follow once I stop to think. It is funny because I don't think of Buffy as a Superhero until it is pointed out. Emma, I really don't think of as a hero.

Yeah that is my answer. The superhero is all about the costume. so the first thing I focus on is iconic costumes WW and supergirl. my second thoughts all have realy cool (read revealing) costumes but they are less ingrained in the psyche of popular culture. SciFi Media

Kendama said...

With me, "magical girls" that stem from Japanese comics and animation come to mind, the most famous of them being Sailor Moon. I'm only barely familiar with Wonder Woman or the female X-Men, though I'm not one of those snobs who would blow them off just because they're American (I hate that attitude.)

Grumpy Misanthrope said...

Female superhero - I'm 42 so my views of the female super hero have been tainted by years of DC and Marvel - I tend to think Wonder Woman, Rogue, Jean Grey, that sort of chracter - a woman with supernatural abilities that wears a stupid costume from a certain time period in history(Note: My old person sensibilities require the stupid costume. Heros that don't wear the costume are heros, not superheros).


Later female heroes, such as Buffy, I don't view through the lens of the super hero. She's a hero. She might have supernatural powers but she's lacking what my ethos require for "Super Hero" status. Which is just as well, because, to be honest, I was never a huge "Super Hero" fan.

logankstewart said...

@Jim Haley: I can't speak for all the Star Wars comics, but the Legacy series definitely seems to add in the extra curves on their women, particularly Deliah Blue, Roan Fel's daughter Marasiah, Darth Talon, and Cade's mother as Morrigan Corde. All of these characters have exaggerated features. Again, I can't say about the other series, but Legacy definitely does not follow suit.

Stewart Sternberg said...

I could be flippant and talk about Powergirl's cleavage. ........okay, that's out of my system. No, wait......now it's ....no..okay now.
However, I think that we are at a point where there is a ton of variety in our perception, a variety which I hope speaks to our changing or lowering of sexual bias. Just as a someone can fixate on Powergirl, someone else can easily point to the female superspy from Chuck (I don't know her name because I don't watch the show). Hell, I'd even consider Clarisse Starling of Silence of the Lambs as a superhero of sorts.

The point is that we should celebrate variety and substance as well as flash and polish.

Wait.....okay now.

SQT said...

Stu-- I'm glad I put this up because I wasn't sure where people focused when thinking about the female superhero. It seems to me that "superhero" conjures images of capes and costumes for a lot of people, but the overall characterization is a big deal. It's not just cleavage...

Kendall said...

BTW a few other people mentioned Storm--she's the next superheroine I imagined after Wonder Woman.

Superhero (male or female) conjures an image of a costumed do-gooder with superpowers...mostly in comic book form. No powers = not a super. No costume = not a (classic) comic/super hero. Bad guy (or someone like Emma Frost...mostly 'bad' but recently 'good') = not a hero. (Emma is a special case since one could argue that some of her past wasn't all bad anyway, but mostly, yeah, she was a villain.)

Smirking Revenge said...

When I think of superhero girl's I immediately think of Wonder Woman. She was my first true superpower and I was downstairs in my under roos spinning around, whirling my lasso made of rope and fighting off bullets with my construction paper cuffs of awesome. She was my Superman, the girl I could aspire to be. Plus, who didnt want to be an Amazon princess? Or maybe that is me when I was already the tallest girl in the class in fourth grade.

Of course along with Wonder Woman, I would probably have to put Bionic Woman in there. As someone who read comics and books as much as I dug television, Jamie Summers had her own superpowers. She was equally as awesome, though she didnt wear a costume.

If I go to literary superheros, I first think of my X-Men girls like Storm (who wouldnt want control of the weather) or Jean Grey, though I always found a tragic beauty with Rogue. But then I loved the bad girls, the ones who used their brain as much as their physical prowess like Black Widow or Black Cat. Or ones that were just odd like Tank Girl.

The more I think about it though superhero girl can be any warrior woman archetype for me: A strong woman, doesn't need to be the damsel in distress, may have abilities that most don't have but it doesn't necessarily have to be magic as there are plenty of male superheros that have no superpowers at all (Batman). It can be Zoe from the tv show Firefly or Kara Thrace from Battlestar Galactica or yes even Buffy Summers from Buffy. But it can also be Film heroines like Ellen Ripley from Alien or maybe even She-Ra, the Princess of Power. But I also really looked up to women like Eowyn who I wanted to be because she fought alongside the men in Lord of the Rings. That being said Susan from the Chronicles of Narnia or Alanna from Tamora Pierce's books. Maybe even Nancy Drew. The point is they were strong female characters that did everything that the male characters did, if not better. It was the whole 'anything you can do I can do better' and I am a girl. They were intelligent, strong, but still feminine.

I suppose it all depends on what your definition of a super hero is. Is it a girl who has super powers as in magical abilities? Do they have to fight evil super villains or can they just be strong female characters.

Would really love to read your thoughts though. You will have to post.

SQT said...

@Smirking Revenge-- Thanks for adding your thoughts. Sometimes we forget how much those characters meant to little girls who now had heroes of their own. I grew up on Wonder Woman and the Bionic Woman. I named my daughter Lindsay in part because Lindsay Wagner was one of my idols when I was little.

ShadowFalcon said...

First I think of Sydney Bristow and all the women from the X-men and Xena

Jim Haley said...

@logankstewart what's funny is, Legacy was exactly one of the Star Wars comic books I was thinking of. Morrigan Corde is shown as flirtatious, but also shorter than the men (as most women are, though you'd never notice from most superhero comics), wearing flat soles (where are those high heels that are so perfect for superheroing!), and of an average build. Deliah Blue is a Zeltron, meant to be highly desirable by humans (because of their physcial characteristics). And while I might agree about Darth Taalon - again, as a Twi'lek (which have gone in the same direction as Zeltron) they're seen as desirable - but the biniki outfit was probably taking it too far. Marasiah Fel has mostly been in either her robes or armor - unless you think Princess Leia is ultra sexy in A New Hope or disguised as Bosch in Return of the Jedi - I'm not really following with this one. But, my intent is not to say that there are NO exaggerated features in Star Wars comics - just that there seem to be less (for instance, Mara Jade is shown more often as athletic than as sex symbol - but it all depends on the artist, which is probably at the heart of this topic).

Budd said...

I thought that this was somewhat appropriate given how a lot of people think of Wonder Woman first when they think of female superheroes. Hal Jordan In, Wonder Woman Out!

Shannon said...

For some reason I thought of wives and mothers trying to be everything at once ... a product of too many slogans and advertising campaigns, I think. Otherwise, probably either Buffy or Mrs. Emma Peel from the Avengers.